Compete, Inc. today announced findings from a new travel study, revealing opportunities for marketers to capture bookings of last minute travelers

Although one third of Internet travel researchers plan to travel more this summer than they did last summer, they are waiting right up until the last minute to book their plans. The study’s findings reveal that more than $10 billion in summer travel bookings is still up for grabs.

Travel is the single largest e-commerce industry with more than 50 million consumers planning and researching travel online each month and over $70 billion in online travel purchases forecasted for 2006. Compete’s research reveals that with 40% of travelers expecting to spend more this year than last, there is a lucrative opportunity for marketers to capture bookings from the increased budgets of last-minute travelers. A range of factors from pricing pressures (such as gas and airline costs) to travel concerns (such as security and weather-related fears) have led to delayed bookings.

“There is still an opportunity for marketers to close the season strongly by focusing promotions on last-minute bookings,” said Gregory Saks, Director of Compete’s Travel Practice. “Marketers can have an impact if they act now with urgency messaging and price-focused offers via the Internet to travelers that are still undecided about their plans or holding out for the right time to book.”

Additional key findings include:

- Summer Travelers Depend on the Internet: Two thirds of consumers prefer researching travel options online, surpassing the importance of recommendations from friends and family as well as other forms of media. The Internet is also the preferred booking channel: among consumers with summer travel remaining to be purchased, nearly 75% will reserve most or all of their travel online.

- 72% of Bookings will Come from Procrastinating and Undecided Travelers: Undecided travelers make up 48% of in-market summer travelers who will wait to book largely due to indecision about when or where they will travel. Procrastinators, comprising 24% of travelers still in market, have simply not gotten around to booking their travel. They know what they want and will respond to offers that are correctly targeted based on their needs and prior experiences.

- Payday Hopefuls and Price-Hold Outs More Likely to Travel Locally:

Payday Hopefuls, 15% of the in-market summer travelers, do not yet have the money to book their travel. They are more likely to travel locally due to high gas prices. Price-Hold Outs comprise 9% of summer travelers and will wait for prices to drop later in the summer. They are more likely to stay close to home due to high airline prices.

For this study, Compete analyzed consumer behavior from its panel of 2 million consumers. Behavior at the top 25 travel-related websites was analyzed and nearly 1,100 survey responses were received from travelers researching on those sites.